The 30th of April is the birthday of the Queen-mother, Juliana, and has been a public holiday since 1948 when she became queen of the Netherlands. When she abdicated in 1980, in favour of her daughter Beatrix, the latter decided that Queensday would still be celebrated on the 30th of April and her own birthday was to be a family party only. Good thinking, because the 31st of January is usually much too cold for a street party.
Traditionally, Queensday has been regarded as a "freemarket" day, meaning that it was allowed for everyone to set yourself up as a market salesman or woman, and sell watever you had to sell. A homemade fleamarket so to speak. Since commerce increasingly took over in the last few years ('real' businesses setting up big stands and spoiling the spontaneous atmosphere), the rules heve been tightened somewhat by the Mayor of the city, Schelto Patijn.
As a result of this, it is technically not allowed to do "serious" business on this day and in some places, for example the Vondelpark, only children are allowed to display their entrepeneurian, musical, inventive or whatever talents, or lack thereof.
a good place to have a rest
From as far as a week before Q-Day you will see mysterious squares and X's appear on streets and bridges. These are people's favourite spots, 'occupied' beforehand. In the past people would be on their spot from about midnight (and sometimes even earlier) but the new regulations put a stop to that as well and no one is allowed to do anything until 8 in the morning. Of course we are all law abiding citizens here, so it can happen that a boat with a rubber trumpet band on board comes sailing past at 4 in the morning. Or you run into a big party that just happens to be there...
The day itself usually starts slowly. As it's the early bird that catches the worm, it could be worth your while to start browsing the stalls before breakfast starts. Plenty of goodies for sale at ridiculous prices, and the chance of your life to find things you've been looking for for years and that one special whatchamacallit you never even knew you wanted. If you watch carefully, you can tell people who are just there for the fun of it from the fanatics wanting to make a hard sell, and maybe get an even bigger discount after a friendly chat.
So what does the Queen do herself on that day? She goes into the country and bestows a visit upon two towns. The whole trip gets extensively televised and here's a good chance to see nervous mayors do a nervous public performance. At the end of the day the Queen returns to her palace and according to our source, she then puts up the Royal Feetsies and orders a cool glass of beer be brought to her. The Queen-mum used to stay at home on the Royal Balcony, being serenaded and given lots of flowers. Nowadays she doesn't even want minimal attention, however. Been there, done it, bought the ermine t-shirt.
Below you can see an example of how busy it gets in Amsterdam on The Day. An estimated 750.000 people come to visit the city, most wisely arriving by train. A lot of people leave the place as well, tired as they are of all the noise and the crowds that flood the streets.
Stand up and be counted. 5 or 6 people turn up on Queensday and manage to block the entire city center!
That's why it's not wise to turn up with your suitcases on that day, as there's no means of transport whatsoever but for your own two legs...
with central station in the back.
There's things to do everywhere you go. Stalls everywhere to keep you busy with games, novelties, second hand goods in all forms and shapes, try to balance a guilder on a floating orange for 5 seconds, throwing eggs at increasingly unhappy volunteers, parades taking place, sports contests etcetera etc...
A lot of bars will have bands playing outside on the streets or floating on a barge in one of the canals. Others have soundsystems and will have a houseparty going on around the place. It can get quite loud , as you can imagine.
the main post office
The next day is fun too. The same, happy people from yesterday will be sitting in the trams and buses again. With their same, long faces. Why can't just everybody be like they are on queensday?..
The streets too look great, as everyone takes their litter home and disposes of it in the therefore destined bins...not. It takes the cleaning people about a week to get the city presentable again. You can tell that if the Queen gives a party, She does it proper.